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Satya Nadella
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella

“Windows, Windows, Windows,” was the refrain from former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer during his long tenure in the position. And Windows is still the core of the company, literally and figuratively. But with new CEO Satya Nadella settling into the corner office, this week is expected to bring two signs of Microsoft expanding its horizons even further beyond its flagship operating system. 

Mary Jo Foley of ZDNet reports this morning that Microsoft will announce plans this week to announce the rebranding of its Windows Azure as “Microsoft Azure,” a nod to the fact that the cloud computing platform runs Linux in virtual machines and also supports a variety of non-Windows development tools.

Microsoft has been running ads on television and online for the “Microsoft Cloud,” so it actually wouldn’t be a complete surprise to see the name “Azure” slip further off the radar over time. The many different pronunciations of Azure, even inside the company, speak to the branding challenges associated with that name.

But the decision to drop “Windows” from the Azure name reflects a shift in philosophy at Microsoft that appears to be accelerating. Later this week, Nadella is headlining a Microsoft event where the company is widely expected to unveil a version of its Office suite for the iPad, removing one of the competitive advantages that Microsoft has touted for Windows-based tablets.

Of course, Windows remains the lynchpin of Microsoft’s business, and many of these changes started under Ballmer’s leadership. But the company under Nadella seems, from the outside, to be more willing to break from its past. As Nadella told employees in his first email as CEO, “Our industry does not respect tradition — it only respects innovation.”

Stay tuned, the upcoming week should be an interesting one on the Microsoft beat.

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